Betting on the legislative graveyard overseen by certain Senators, data brokers in a post-Roe country are selling listings on and access to pregnant people confident that they can get away with it even as Democrats try to warn them off. The danger of such action has been made clear in recent history.
Politico found more than 30 listings from data brokers offering information on expecting parents or selling access to those people through mass email blasts. Twenty-five of them were updated after the Supreme Court’s ruling on Roe v. Wade on June 24.”
The attitude of many of these data brokers seems to be, hey, it’s legal. Who cares if it’s ethical or puts women’s lives in danger.
“NextMark’s CEO Joe Pych said he saw no issue with hosting these lists.
“As far as I know, there’s no law today that prohibits prenatal mailing lists. If that were to change and this type of data became illegal, we’d work with the providers to remove these listings,” Pych said.”
You might have heard the calls for women to delete their period app as soon as the draft of the overturn of Roe was leaked, but there are other ways a digital trail can be used to prosecute.
Cynthia Conti-Cook did the research and found this is not only possible but it has already happened and it most impacts “people of color, immigrants, low-income individuals, and those
with any combination of these characteristics”:
“In addition to online search histories, other types of digital
evidence can also be culled to support a prosecution, including
location-tracking data, website navigation histories, purchasing
history, social media activity, wearable device data, data entered into
apps, and home devices connected to the internet.”
Conti-Cook, citing the 2017 case of Latice Fisher, a Mississippi woman who was charged with second-degree murder after a stillbirth at home. Investigators used her entire phone content, including her internet searches, told the New York Times, “We should start with the types of data that have already been used to criminalize people. The text to your sister that says, ‘Expletive, I’m pregnant.’ The search history for abortion pills or the visitation of websites that have information about abortion.'”
Anticipating this, Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MASS) and Edward Markey (D-MASS) wrote a letter at the end of July sent to PoliticusUSA, raising the concern that student activity monitoring software might be used to criminalize students searching for pregnancy or abortion related information, based on an investigation they released in March that “A recent report by privacy experts… found that digital surveillance data can be weaponized ‘to target pregnant people and use their health data against them in a court of law,’ and internet search engines were identified as ‘particularly potent tool(s)’ as ‘police can not only obtain search histories from a pregnant person’s device, but can also obtain records directly from search engines.’”
The largely unregulated cyberworld continues to embolden theft of privacy and the rather secretive selling of private information. The fact that we can’t even get basic privacy acts passed reflects upon the power of the corporation in what seems to be the late capitalism phase of our grand experiment.
There are values more important than profit and greed, including the protection of inherent rights, including the right to privacy.
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.